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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Winter Athena

It's been a while since I last posted a make, but I think this one has been worth the wait. This is the new Athena Blouse from Elise at Honig Design. I've previously made her garden party dress and really loved the pattern. I was lucky enough to be one of the testers for this pattern, and I've been waiting to post it since I finished making it.

Athena is a fitted blouse with double diagonal pleated darts. The diagonal darts are somewhat similar to Simplicity 2444, which is a great pattern I've made more than once. I made the version with bracelet-length sleeves, but there is also a short sleeved version. I chose the longer sleeved version so that I can wear it now that the weather is cooling down. I used a lightweight wool in grey and red check to have both some warmth but still a good soft drape.

I made a straight size 1 unlined and with no adjustments and it fits me well. The waist is close fitting, the bust slightly looser, and the peplum means the hips are loose. I'm slightly long waisted and the waist sits just above my natural waist. The neckline is high but not tight, but could be lowered pretty easily if you don't like high necklines.

I don't always pay a lot of attention to instructions (famous last words?) but given I was pattern testing this I made sure to read and follow everything exactly. Elise's instructions are clear and easy to follow. One of my favourite things is the inclusion of a progress bar showing how far you are through making it - there's a bar of squares at the top of each step which turn blue as you go along. For PDF patterns where the instructions are spread over more pages, it's a helpful piece of information. I'm sure that for less experienced sewists in particular it will be useful to be able to see how much is left to do.

Not only are the instructions clear, but the blouse itself is quite easy to make. There are eight pieces - bodice front, two bodice backs, peplum front, two peplum backs and two sleeves - but it isn't difficult to put together. The darts are sewn first and then the bodice pieces are sewn together. The same is done with the peplum, then the two are joined, the sleeves added and the zipper inserted last. Because I was using a woven wool I also covered all the seams in bias binding to prevent fraying.

I actually haven't worn this top yet, partly because I wanted to wait until Elise had released it, but also because it hasn't quite been cool enough yet. But I can see this top getting a lot of wear throughout winter. I think I'll probably also make a light shortsleeved version for summer, or even lengthen the peplum to a skirt and make it a dress. I definitely recommend others to make it if you think it looks interesting.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Faded Mosaic Top and Classic Grey Skirt

Two new makes today, a top and skirt to wear to work. Both are simple makes in classic styles, making them very wearable.

The top is the Betty Blouse which was in Simply Sewing magazine last July. I rarely buy sewing magazines, but I'd been looking for a non-button up short sleeved blouse pattern with no closures or complications. This pattern was pretty much exactly what I wanted. It's a simple woven blouse with just a front and back piece and pintucks.

The fabric is a viscose from Tessuti called Running Out Of Blue. The print is mosaic style and changes from peacock blue through to rust about every two feet. I hadn't realised the print changed colour when I picked the bolt up - I'd just liked the peacock blue - but when it was being rolled out to be cut I saw the rust colour emerge. This meant I had to decide how I was going to use the shifting colours in the blouse, basically which colour I wanted at the neckline and which at the hem. After holding it up against myself each way I decided the blue at the neckline was the way to go.

The fabric is beautiful with a lovely hand, but being a lightweight viscose it was a bit slippery to pin and cut out. Fortunately the print gave me handy lines to cut along to even out the hem and shoulders! The print was also very helpful for making sure my pintucks were nice and even - I could fold in the middle of the squares and stitch along the second outline and know that each pintuck would be exactly the same.

The skirt is an adjusted version of the straight skirt pattern in the Blouse Skirt and Pants Style Book. The fabric is a lightweight grey wool check from The Fabric Store, lined with some grey stretch woven cotton I'd bought for another project but found was the wrong weight. The zipper was stitched in by hand to try and keep it looking as neat as possible.

I used my French curve to slightly widen out from the waist to a more A-line shape. It was mostly an easy make, except that the two different fabrics do handle differently. I had measured them the same, but when I went to sew it up the shell was wider at the hem than the lining. To fix this I stitched in the side seams on the shell, It was still a little too wide when I sewed the hem, so I had to slightly fold it at the seams, but hopefully it isn't visible!

Because it's such a straightforward pattern and I'd used it once before I didn't look at the instructions, and so forgot that the pattern doesn't include seam or hem allowance. It didn't matter for the seam allowance given I'd already widened the skirt, but it did mean the hem was shorter than I initially planned. I had some fabric left and was going to put a flounce on for extra length, so I measured a curve, cut it out, and then realised I'd measured the outside rather than inside length of the curve, so the flounce was too narrow. So I folded the hems of the lining and shell in towards each other as narrowly as I could and stitched close to the edge. The length is actually fine, it's just not quite what I'd planned, but I'll get used to it.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Glow in the Dark Solar System Dress

That's right, this dress glows in the dark. It's an amazing solar system print - including Pluto and the moon - with everything helpfully labelled.
I love a good quirky outfit, and this fabric makes a great quirky dress.

I picked this fabric up at a local quilting store. I'd actually gone there to get a new sewing box as the lid had broken off my old one. But they also had 30% off fabric so I thought I'd have a look. I saw this solar system fabric and loved the kitschness of it, so decided to buy some. When the woman serving told me it glowed in the dark, it just made it sound even better..

The selvedge of the fabric says it's for children's sleepwear, but that's crazy. Why waste such a great fabric on something that's not going to be shown off much? Ok sure, something that glows in the dark makes sense for nighttime - I, along with 90% of other teenage girls in the 90s had glow in the dark stars stuck on my ceiling - but this fabric needs to be seen. It needed to be a dress.

The pattern I used was a free download of a Gorman dress I got about five years ago from Tessuti. It's a fairly straightforward pattern, a bateau neck empire line bodice with a gathered skirt. However, it is very short, so I lengthened it by about two inches. I also changed the neckline, to a v-neck at the front and scoop at the back. I also decided to lengthen the back bodice, curving from the sides to centre back zipper, in turn giving the skirt a little bit of extra length at the back.

The dress itself was a very easy make. It's a completely straightforward construction, waist darts in the front, no darts in the back, and a plain gathered skirt. There are narrow facings aound the neckline and armholes, which are stitched down by hand to avoid a visible stitchline, and a 1.5cm hem. I have used this pattern before, so it was nice and quick to put together.

And as you can see, the fabric really does glow in the dark!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Vintage Vogue for Frocktails

So the Sydney Spoolettes finally got around to holding a frocktails event last Saturday. Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra sewists have been much better organised than us Sydney sewists and have each held a few big events before, but it had only been talked about in Sydney. But thanks to the excellent organisational skills of Caz from Useful Box, Sydney has joined the party.

Frocktails is where you wear something you've made, book out a nice venue and get together with a bunch of other sewists to have some drinks, chat, and feel each others' fabric. It's a lot of fun, as you get to see all the different styles people wear, see patterns you've heard about made up into a finished product and talk about fabrics and sewing techniques without boring people out of their minds.

It's also a good excuse to make a pattern that isn't an every day style. Or, in my case, finally finish one off. This dress is by far the longest make from when I bought the pattern and fabric to when I tied off the last thread. In fact, I'd be surprised if there were many people who had a finished make that had taken as long as this one did!

This pattern is the out-of-print Vintage Vogue V2787, originally from 1948. It's an absolutely stunning pattern, with curved and gathered bodice seams, gathered shoulders and a curved and half gathered front skirt piece. I bought the pattern and fabric from Tessuti back in 2005 when they still had a store on York St in Sydney. The fabric is a silk twill called falling leaves or falling ivy (it's been over a decade, I'm not certain of its name) and is wonderfully soft with a great hand. I got the pattern home, pinned it and cut it out, and then realised I'd had a bit of a delusion of talent and definitely didn't have the sewing experience to make something as complex as this. So I put it back in its Tessuti bag and put it away for a decade.

I pulled it back out two years ago during the sewphotohop daily photo challenge on Instagram. One of the prompts was 'secret corner of shame', and an unfinished ten year old pattern was an obvious choice. I got a few comments telling me to have a go at sewing it up, so I took it out of its bag. I hand gathered along the seams, hand basting before stitching it together. The fabric has about 4% elastane giving it a slight stretch, but it sews together completely smoothly.

The dress has a side zip and button back. The button I used is from a box of vintage buttons I inherited from my grandma. I did all the seams by machine, but decided that the zipper, hem and sleeve caps needed to be sewn by hand. However I didn't finish the dress off then, I pinned the zipper in and moved on to other projects that were quicker and that I had a reason to sew.

Fast forward another year and a half to the start of this year, and I was starting to think about what I should wear to frocktails. I looked through what other fabrics and patterns I had but nothing grabbed me, so I thought I might pull this one out again and finally finish it off. But there were a few other things I wanted to do first (see my last few posts) so I didn't actually sit down to start finishing it off until about a week before the event. And not only did I have a long week at work, I was close to out of the bone coloured thread I was using. Nothing like a deadline.

The hand sewing was straightforward, just tedious. I decided to hand sew the last elements so that the hem, side and sleeve caps would look smooth with no stitch lines. That meant it took time and close attention to make the stitches as invisible as possible. I finally tied off the ends of the hem threat at 6:05pm on Saturday, barely half an hour before leaving to head into the city for frocktails. I gave the dress a quick press - missing a crease on the front of the skirt - got ready, and headed off to see all the Sydney Spoolettes.

Sadly I didn't get many photos at frocktails as I only had my phone and the venue was relatively dim, but it was a fantastic night. There were 70 women all in amazing outfits they'd made, great drinks and lots of food. It's taken a long time, but it was great to finally get so much of Sydney's sewing community together into the one room. Here's hoping we'll have more frocktails events in the future!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Friday's Frock

Just to be different from my last few posts that have gone on about how hot Sydney has been and how I've had to make something new that's cool enought to wear this summer, so this time...
I have a dress I made because it was so hot and I needed something new that was still appropriate to wear to work.

This dress is a vintage McCall's pattern from 1968, number 9438. I picked it up at a Sydney Spoolettes fabric swap in November (thanks whoever's pattern it was!). It's a very simple dress, with a semi fitted bodice and lightly gathered skirt to just above the knee. The style is classic and unfussy and the pattern was my size, so I brought it home with me.

The fabric is a Japanese cotton from Tessuti in Surry Hills. It has a texture that's a bit like linen, and is beautifully soft. It's a denim blue with a slight grey tone and a linear geometric pattern in black that looks a bit like stars, a bit like flowers, and a bit like tiles. It's neither casual nor formal, so is very versatile to wear, and the print has hints of a late 60s feel without being costumey. I cut the skirt on the warp and the bodice on the weft, just them look a bit different to each other.

I made a few minor adjustments to the pattern. The bodice originally had two sets of bust darts, both side and waist seam. I don't need both sets of darts, and also tend to find my ribcage is narrower than many bodices, so I folded the side dart in, which straightened the sides and brought the bodice in. The second change was one I made fairly late - lowering the neckline. The round neckline was originally very high, which was both a little tight and too warm for hot weather. I lowered it by half a centimetre all the way around. It's still high enough to keep with the original style of the pattern, but not so high that it feels uncomfortable.

I've worn this dress a few times, but took the photos last Friday, when it was almost 40 degrees. Normally we have casual Fridays, But last Friday there was a workshop I was involved with so I had to be dressed appropriately for a meeting with  external people, but that would be comfortable in the heat and running back and forth to make the workshop happen. This dress fit the bill perfectly.

Just a quick mention of my shoes too. They're Rollies, a Melbourne brand that I've seen around every now and then for a few years. A new shop just opened up around the corner from me and stocks them, so I finally decided I  could afford them. This pair are side-cut derby punch in rose gold, and they are wonderfully light and comfortable, even in very hot weather.  

The one drawback of this dress is that the fabric does fray a lot. So I'm going to have to do a bit of fixing to cover the seams, and especially along the zipper. But apart from that, this dress is great. And sure to get lots more wear.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Summer Sleepwear

It is hot.
This summer in Sydney (and a lot of Australia) has been ridiculous. We've had a record-equalling nine days over 35C - that's 95F for Americans - so far this summer and there's still almost a month left to go. It's too hot to do much sewing, or to wear too much. So light sleepwear is a must.

These two items are some of the few things I've made over the summer. Most of my old sleepwear is very much old and starting to fall apart. I also didn't have a summer robe for lazing at home during the holidays or on weekends when I don't feel like getting dressed just yet. So here are my Asaka Kimono and loose drape tank top nightie.

First up is the Asaka Kimono from Named Clothing. Named are a Finnish indie pattern brand who I know a lot of sewists have tried, but this was my first make. I actually bought the pattern during their pre-Christmas sale in 2015 (I bought 2 other patterns then too) but I only recently got around to making it.

The pattern is pretty straightforward without too many pieces. It does require a lot of fabric - and it isn't one where you can just lay the pieces like a jigsaw to save room. But none of the pieces are strange shapes, nor are there any awkward joins that need to be made. This pattern would be suitable for even fairly beginner sewists.

Because the fabric frays and isn't the greatest quality (although the print was too perfect a match for the pattern not to buy) I again did French seams. Of course I couldn't do French seams for the sleeves due to the vent, so instead I sewed those with a wider seam allowance and then rolled that under and topstitched it down.

I do think the tie belt is possibly a bit too long, which is my only complaint. Mine almost reaches the floor when untied, and that's after I managed to burn holes in one end and had to cut it shorter. Turns out the cheap $2 a metre fabric I bought at Spotlight is not friends with the iron, so this gown is just going to have to remain creased.

The nightie is the No. 13 Loose Drape Tank Top from Drape Drape. This pattern I have changed when I made it. The first and obvious change is in the fabric I used. As with most in the book, the pattern is designed for a knit fabric. However I'd bought metres of this black and white Deco-esque rose satin a few years back planning to make sleepwear. Seeing as I already had the fabric, I decided I might as well use it as I'd planned to.

The second change I made was to the pattern itself. The original in the book is much more draped at the side, down to the waist in the pictures in the book. I didn't want it to be that deep, so when I traced the pattern out I overlapped the two pattern pieces to narrow and raise it. The sides are still deep, but not so much that the nightie is about to fall off.

I didn't make any other modifications to this pattern, and like my Punto Drape Dress the pattern was incredibly easy to follow. It is made all in one piece, cut out on the fold and sewn up at the back, so it is very quick. It definitely taes twice as long to trace and cut the pattern out as it does to make it. It's a great pattern, and works in a woven just as well as it would in a knt. Again, recommended for sewists of all skill levels.

We've had a bit of a cool change come through this evening and tomorrow is going to be wet and a cool(!) 25 degrees, but the weekend is hotting up again, possibly to 40 (104F) on Sunday. So these lightweight sleepwear and lounging gown are going to come in handy for a few more weeks yet.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Whites and The Blues

A belated post of some 2016 makes. I still have a few others that have been made but not photographed, or need just a little bit of fixing or finishing. With these two makes, one has already been in my wardrobe for 11 months, the other was made two weeks before the end of the year. So I guess that evens out to...still be a ridiculously long time between making and posting.

Both of these makes were quick pattern-free makes. Both pieces of fabric were remnants, so I only had what was there to work with. And with both fabrics I knew exactly what they'd be as soon as I bought them. Even so, both fabrics spent a while in my stash before I made them up into these garments.

The first make is a simple jersey top. The fabric was from Spotlight, bought in the second half of 2015. The print is white silhouettes of foxes, although they bear almost as much resemblance to cacti as they do to foxes. But I liked that the fabric is fun while still be quite simple in the navy and white colours. It was also a softer jersey than many of Spotlight's can be.

The top was a very simple make. It is raglan sleeved, and the front and back are identical, just rectangles with the top corners cut off on an angle. With the sleeves the neckline is not quite rectangular, angling out slightly towards the shoulders. It's sewn together with a three stitch zigzag about 6mm wide in white thread. The fit is close but not tight, so it's casual but still neat.

The skirt is a piece of wonderfully soft remnant rayon with navy palm leaves on a cream background was bought at My Hung fabrics. It was 1.5 metres wide and 1.1 metres long. This made it just the perfect size piece for  a maxi skirt. With skirts I tend not to bother with patterns, and for this one I didn't even bother with any measurement. I just pinned pleats every few centimetres to bring it down to my waist size, sewed my pleats about 8cm long, then stitched up the back seam, added a zipper, and folded over and stitched a waistband and hem. All done in not much more than an hour.

Both of these pieces also remind me of some of the things I really love about sewing. Designing my own ideas, or seeing a fabric and having an image in my head of what it should be and then creating that is such a great experience. Using fabrics in prints and colours I choose that are good quality and have a better feel than the cheap disposable things for sale in most shops means I enjoy wearing what I make. And my wardrobe has much more colour and variety when I make things myself.